By Sarah Townsend
White paper unveiled at energy summit in Abu Dhabi calls for “unconventional” water sourcing techniques to meet demand
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will face severe water shortages over the coming years as the population grows and meeting basic water needs becomes increasingly costly, according to a new report.
General Electric (GE) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) together unveiled their Water, Energy, Risks & Rewards white paper at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
The report states that all 21 countries in the MENA region will suffer what the World Health Organisation (WHO) terms ‘water poverty’ by 2030, unless new measures are taken to source and conserve water.
The report notes that renewable water availability in the MENA region is under 2,000 m3 (cubic metres) per capita per year according to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation – the global average is 7,240 m3 per capita per year.
That figure is expected to drop below the WHO’s water poverty line of 1,000 m3 by 2030 and, by 2050, two-thirds of MENA will have renewable water availability of less than 200m3 per capita per year, the white paper says.
The UAE’s state news agency WAM highlighted on Tuesday that improved water management will be “critical to reducing MENA’s water gap”, while “unconventional” water techniques, such as desalination and wastewater recycling, will be needed as well.
However, it also noted that desalination is an energy-intensive process and MENA countries that are focusing on this technique alone risk fast using up crucial energy resources and contributing to the growing power deficit. Desalination currently accounts for 75.2 TWh of global electricity consumption every year, and more than 99 percent of this energy comes from fossil fuels, WAM said, citing figures the International Renewable Energy Agency.
GE and the WRI pointed out in their white paper that MENA has the potential to drive a new wave of renewable power investments and research, thanks in part to the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi.
Deb Frodl, global executive director of ecomagination at GE, said: “The shared nature of water and energy resources means that no individual company, industry, country, or even a region, can ensure access to clean energy and clean water on its own.
“The report underlines the need to promote collaborative innovation that will help bring energy costs down and provide new water service models.
“This can be further supported through advanced technologies that help in doubling energy productivity, scaling distributed clean energy, and building smart infrastructure. All these are 'win-win' opportunities for water and energy.”